Conservatives Don’t Care About the Deficit


Incidentally, if there’s anything that makes me want to lock every MSM political journalist in a small barn which I then light on fire* it’s the persistent refusal of the journalistic class to internalize the fact that the conservative movement in America doesn’t care about the budget deficit. It’s not that they sometimes care more about other things. Or that they care less than the should. Or that they’re hypocrites on occasion. It’s that they don’t care about it at all. Not even a little. Indeed, they’re opposed in principle to deficit reduction. The conservative movement has more record of boosting foreign aid to sub-Saharan Africa than it does to deficit reduction. Here’s a few posts (1, 2, 3) I wrote on the subject at the beginning of the year.

It’s genuinely hard for me to know what would persuade people that I’m correct about this, but to recap the key points:

1) There have been two presidents who were members of the modern conservative movement, Ronald Reagan and George W Bush, and they both presided over massive increases in both present and projected deficits.

2) The major deficit reduction packages of the modern era, in 1990 and 1993, were both uniformly opposed by the conservative movement.

3) When the deficit was temporarily eliminated in the late-1990s, the mainstream conservative view was that this showed that the deficit was too low and needed to be increased via large tax cuts.

4) Senator Mitch McConnell says it’s a uniform view in his caucus that tax cuts needn’t be offset by other changes in spending.

5) The deficit reduction commission is having trouble because they think conservative politicians won’t vote for any form of tax increase.

In sum, there are zero historical examples of conservatives mobilizing to make the deficit smaller. What is true is that most conservatives oppose increases in non-military spending when those increases are proposed by Democratic presidents. A minority of conservatives are more consistent opponents of increases in non-military spending. But the key element of conservative fiscal policy is that tax revenue as a percent of GDP should be made as low as possible. This isn’t a goal they pursue that stands in some kind of balance with concern about the deficit, it’s the only goal they pursue. You can like that or not, but every single journalist who writes articles about the deficit debate that doesn’t highlight the conservative movement’s deep, decades-long hostility to deficit reduction is being grossly irresponsible.

* Incinerating people is morally wrong even if their articles are aggravating.